The God of the Planet Mars 火德星君 - ROM2018_16578_57


The God of the Planet Mars 火德星君

Medium:Woodblock print, ink on paper
Geography: Shanghai, China
Date: circa 1927-28
Period: Nineteenth to mid-twentieth century
56 × 21.5 cm
Object number: 2018x5.48
Not on view

The God of the Planet Mars is the so-called Fire God, which embodied fire in Chinese folk beliefs. The most well-known Fire God was Zhu Rong 祝融 of the Xia dynasty. In addition, the Great Emperor Huaguang (huaguang dadi 華光大帝), the so-called Marshal Ma of the Holy Spirit (lingguan Ma yuanshuai 靈官馬元帥), was also regarded as the Fire God. Since the Fire God controls fire, all the members of professions involving fire, such as ironsmiths, ceramics-makers, firecracker manufacturers, and others, worshipped him. The craftsmen in these professions wished that the Fire God would bring them prosperity in business. Moreover, the Fire God was believed to be capable of setting fire as well as extinguishing fire. Thus, worshipping him could also protect a person from conflagration.

The Fire God in this print looks ferocious. He has three eyes, a red beard, and a pink face. The overall colour tone of the print is red, which presumably represents fire. The god wears bright red clothes. The background is pink, and even the clouds are coloured red in the centre. He holds a fire wheel (houlun 火輪) with rising flames, while under his foot, there is an even larger fire wheel. All the colours and patterns suggest the character and power of the god associated with fire.

The images of two immortals called Hehe 和合1 appear above the Fire God. On their left and right are two green dragons. The building behind them has a plaque on it, which reads “Dragon Gate” (longmen 龍門). The dragon gate and dragons exist in water. The inclusion of them here might imply their ability to assist the Fire God since water can extinguish fire.

1 For Hehe, see cat. 1-3.

Publication: Wen-Chien Cheng, and Yanwen Jiang. Gods in my home: Chinese ancestor portraits and popular prints (Toronto: Royal Ontario Museum, 2019), 170-171.

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